25 April 2013

Railroad Crossing Safety

Being a proud member of the Florida Railroad Museum since January 2013  (and not to mention the complimentary train rides on regular ride weekends and the opportunity to volunteer for the annual Day Out With Thomas event over two weekends in March), I have noticed that there is no crossing protection on the route the museum takes between Parrish and Willow.  Specifically, there is no crossing protection other than a crossbuck and a stop sign on Dickey Road in northern Manatee County, which is halfway between Parrish and Willow.

In fact, the SW Line does not have any crossing protection, save for two crossings that are on the CSX owned portion of the SW Line in Palmetto adjacent to the junction with the AZA Line (CSX's main line from Tampa to Bradenton) south of 10th Street.  Past 10th Street and going northeast on the SW Line the only crossing protection for the SW Line - both CSX and Florida Power and Light owned portions - is overpasses at US 41 and Interstate 75 as well as crossbucks and stop signs on the level crossings similar to Dickey Road.

I recently came across this video on YouTube from Glenn Miley (his YouTube user name is GMRailroading) which proves the point on railroad crossing safety, and I would like you to watch this short 17 second video:

While this was a staged train vs. truck crash which I understand was being done for a school project, we can learn some useful tips when you approach a railroad crossing anywhere:

1.  Remember, anytime is train time.  A railroad can put a train on that railroad track at any time, day or night.  If you think on the lines of "oh, they don't run trains at this hour of the night on this track", you are wrong.  Seriously wrong.

2.  When you see the circular advance railroad warning sign - a circle shape sign with the X and the letters RR in black on a yellow background (see the two examples below) - this is the time to begin slowing down for the railroad crossing which is just ahead, not the time for being on your cell phone or texting.  In fact, you should put down that cell phone while you are behind the wheel in the very first place; that phone call or business transaction can wait until you have arrived at your destination safely.

Thomas arriving into the station

3.  Most railroad crossings come with automatic signal flashers and gates.  But beware:  A substantial number of railroad crossings consist of a simple crossbuck and stop sign, such as the one on Dickey Road in northern Manatee County as pictured below.

4.  If you are approaching the railroad crossing and the lights and gates start and the bell sounds, STOP!  Be sure to stop at the stop bar well before the gate, especially if you are the first car to stop at the crossing.

5.  If you are approaching a crossbuck only railroad crossing and you see the headlights of an approaching train, STOP!  Looks can be deceiving; a train which you may think is far away is in fact just around the corner.  Be sure to stop well behind the marked stop bar or sign.

6.  Be mindful of vehicles which must stop at all railroad crossings regardless of whether a train is coming or not:  School buses and tanker trucks carrying hazardous materials are a few of the vehicles that must stop at all railroad crossings.

Now what do you do if in the event your vehicle breaks down on a railroad crossing?

The first thing you do is to get yourself and your passengers out of the car immediately and well away from the tracks.  This is for your safety regardless of whether a train is coming or not.

On all railroad crossings is a small sign that lets you know who the owner of the railroad track is, the crossing identification numbers as well as a telephone number to call in case of emergency.  The photo below shows you a CSX sign mounted on a crossing:

If your vehicle stalls on a CSX owned track, immediately contact CSX Emergency at 1 (800) 232-0144.  Be prepared to tell the CSX operator the crossing ID number and the milepost location.

If you cannot find a sign posted on the crossing, immediately call 911 and let the 911 operator know what happened. Be prepared to give the 911 operator your location.

Now if your vehicle is stalled on a railroad crossing and a train is fast approaching:

1.  Get everyone out of the vehicle FAST!!!

2.  Move everyone away from the track in the opposite direction of the approaching train.  This will minimize any injury from flying debris as the train hits the vehicle.

3.  A vehicle - and its items such as CD's, a laptop computer, etc. can be replaced.  That's why you got auto insurance.  A human life cannot.

For you students out there riding the school bus to and from school, there is one very important safety rule you must know when it comes to railroad crossing safety:  When your bus approaches the railroad crossing, the bus driver must come to a complete stop and open the front bus door to listen for trains.  At the same time, the bus driver will turn on the dome lights to let you know that you must observe absolute silence while at the railroad crossing.

So, remember the cardinal rule when you approach any railroad crossing:  Stop, look and listen!  It might sound like an inconvenience to you, especially if you are in a hurry to get home to watch the latest and greatest episode of American Idol, but that few minutes delayed could well save your life.  And besides, you won't be breaking news on Bay News 9, 10 News (WTSP-TV), ABC Action News (WFTS-TV), NewsChannel 8 (WFLA-TV) or the Fox 13 Eyewitness News (WTVT-TV) regarding a railroad crossing accident.

Or, end up on a YouTube video of motorists that drive around lowered railroad crossing gates, like this one that was recently made by Alan Smith (his YouTube name is Millenniumforce) showing motorists in the Tampa area who are in a hurry to be somewhere rather than be inconvenienced by only a couple of minutes to let a train pass by:

Finally, here's a great site that is dedicated to railroad crossing safety you may want to take a look at:  Operation Lifesaver.  After all, Operation Lifesaver is dedicated to all aspects of safety around railroad tracks, not just grade crossings.

No comments: